Haggerty: What a difference a year makes

191545.jpg

Haggerty: What a difference a year makes

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON It's not difficult to believe the Bruins are vastly different this time around, is it?

Last year they couldnt close things out against the Flyers, stumbling badly after losing David Krejci to a dislocated right wrist in Game 3 as they built a 3-0 series that, as everybody knows, they couldn't hold.

Of course, the fact that Steve Begin, Trent Whitfield and Miroslav Satan three players who suited up for a grand total of two NHL games this season were among those who played in last year's Game 7, while Krejci, Marco Sturm, Dennis Seidenberg and Tim Thomas, among others, did not, had a little to do with it, as well.

Which is one of the reasons that things seem very different now that these Bruins -- relatively healthy and clicking on all cylinders -- are again up, 3-0, on the same Flyers after a dominating 5-1 win in which they dominated all phases of the game.

One could simply joke that no one has ever blown a 3-0 series lead in consecutive seasons as further proof there'll be no repeat this year. But it's not 2009-10 anymore. A team full of proud players who heard jokes about collapses and being chokers all summer isnt leaving anything to chance.

We're glad that we're in the position that we are," said Zdeno Chara. "But, still, there is one more win we have to accomplish to move on, and that is where our focus is right now.

Last year we had a good chance to play in the Conference final, and who knows what could have happened from there? said Krejci. So this year we just really want to beat these guys and get to the Conference final and go from there.

Both teams are vastly different this year. The Flyers are dearly missing Chris Pronger, and their goaltending woes are so acute that they've actually changed goalies in each of the first three games of the series.

The Bruins, on the other hand, are healthy and have momentum at their backs after having won seven of their last eight games.

First of all, about half the guys werent here last year," said Krejci. "Its a deeper team, we have more depth in our lineup.

Chara (two goals, a plus-4 and a team-high five shots on net on Wedneday night) and Patrice Bergeron (17-of-19 faceoff wins, an assist and a plus) have been performing like champs, but nearly all the new faces are making a difference:

Rookie Brad Marchand wasnt good enough to crack the playoff roster last year when Whitfield played in his place, but he's become a key cog in this season's postseason run. He set up Charas first goal Wednesday night, and bounced like a pinball all over the ice with a game-high seven hits.

First-year Bruin Nathan Horton capped off one of his finest playoff performances with a Gordie Howe hat trick that included an assist on Krejcis first period goal, a second-period goal on his own, and a second-period scrap with veteran defenseman Sean ODonnell when things got testy in front of the Flyers net.

Rich Peverley, Chris Kelly and Tomas Kaberle have added to the depth and the overall talent level in Boston.

Seidenberg, who was injured and didn't participate in last year's playoffs, contributed another solid 28 minutes Wednesday night skating alongside Chara in a top pairing.

That doesnt even mention a healthy Krejci, who has eight points (4 goals, 4 assists) in the three games against the Flyers. The Bruins are 11-0-1 in their last 12 games against Philadelphia when Krejci's in the lineup, and he has 18 points and a plus-10 over those games. Krejci finished with three points and a plus-2 in the victory.

Nor does it account for the biggest difference-maker in the series. Thomas was outstanding again Wednesday with 37 saves on a night when his defense managed to keep the actual scoring chances to a minimum. He ripped off a stretch of 68 straight saves between Game 2 and 3, and is starting to taste what could be an incredibly fulfilling postseason.

I'm focused on this year," said Thomas. "I'm focused on what we as a team want to accomplish this year and what I as a player want to try to accomplish this year."

Thomas has a .967 save percentage in the last two games against the high-octane Flyers, and all the Philly skaters have gone away frustrated in the knowledge that its going to be nearly impossible to beat the Vezina Trophy favorite with the roll hes currently on.

The Bruins will continue to hear questions about last season now that theyre up 3-0, but it couldn't be any clearer that it's a new year.

Going into the series I was hoping for the Flyers to drop behind in the series, said Tim Thomas. It is what it is. Its a different year. Its totally different."

That it is. The Bruins have come through the heartache, skittishness and bitterness of last season, and are a better, stronger, more lethal team for it.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Source: Bruins preparing offer sheet for Jets D-man Jacob Trouba

Source: Bruins preparing offer sheet for Jets D-man Jacob Trouba

According to a hockey source, Don Sweeney and the Boston Bruins “are preparing an offer sheet” this week for Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba as an aggressive option to land a No. 1 defenseman after trades didn’t pan out at last weekend’s NHL Draft.

The Bruins have watched Trouba closely for some time, and clearly have an interest in the 22-year-old D-man with size, offensive abilities and a workhorse nature that’s seen him average more than 22 minutes of ice time per game since entering the league as a 19-year-old.

Trouba is coming off a six-goal, 21-point season while playing in 81 games for the Jets, and was a career-best plus-10 for Winnipeg. With Trouba, a restricted free agent, and the Jets locked into big money deals to fellow right shot D-men in Dustin Byfuglien and Tyler Myers, the writing has been on the wall for some time that the Jets would need to give one of them up.

Now it appears the Bruins may be willing to put their money, and their assets, where their interest is, and come up with an offer sheet that totals a minimum of $47 million for Trouba’s services.

Part of that high total is crafting an offer that the Winnipeg Jets aren’t going to match, and part of that is the Bruins’ own doing while casually tossing away their own draft picks. Because they sent their 2017 third round pick to the Flyers for Zac Rinaldo and their 2017 second round pick to New Jersey for Lee Stempniak, the Bruins must put together an offer sheet with an average annual value (AAV) of at least $9.3 million that will require Boston to give up four consecutive first round picks as compensation.

The good news for the Bruins: for offer sheet purposes, AAV is determined by dividing the total compensation offered by the lesser of the length of the contract, or by five. For contracts longer than five years in term, this will result in a higher AAV than simply dividing the contract total by the number of years.

Example: a 7 year offer sheet worth $49 million total, would be considered an AAV of $9.8 million ($49 million divided by 5) for offer sheet compensation purposes. That means the Bruins could make an offer sheet to Trouba in the $7-8 million per season neighborhood on a seven year deal, a reasonable contract if Trouba turns into the No. 1 defenseman that the B’s are envisioning.

The real price for the Black and Gold would be surrendering four first round picks, but the Bruins have made five first round picks in the last two years while stockpiling their prospect cupboard. The B’s have also been hit-or-miss with their first round picks, so sacrificing a few of them for a surefire, young defenseman would theoretically be worth the price.

Clearly the offer sheet route is the product of Bruins’ frustration at being unable to broker a deal for Kevin Shattenkirk or Cam Fowler last weekend in Buffalo, and at the realization that they need a stud No. 1 defenseman in order to again be competitive in the Eastern Conference. Perhaps even the threat of an offer sheet could spur the Jets into dealing Trouba, just as the threat of an offer sheet pushed forward the trades of Dougie Hamilton and Brandon Saad last season. 

Dirty Water Media Bruins reporter James Murphy was also reporting the buzz that the B's are exploring their offer sheet option. 

Bruins go for size, defensive presence at center with Koppanen

joona-koppanen.jpg

Bruins go for size, defensive presence at center with Koppanen

While the Bruins fourth round pick might sound eerily like Finnish fourth line center Joonas Kemppainen, the Black and Gold are hoping for much more from fifth round pick (135th overall) Joona Koppanen. The 6-foot-5, 194-pound Finnish center is obviously a big body in the middle of the ice, and already plays a responsible, smart game on the defensive side of the ice.

In keeping with the parallels to Kemppainen, Koppanen is a bit less developed on the offensive side of the game at this point in his young career as an 18-year-old.  

“I think that the draft was awesome and I’m really excited for the draft to Boston,” said Koppanen, who added “Tuukka Rask plays there” when asked what he knows about the Bruins. “My strength is to skating and I’m a good two-way forward.”

The Big Finn had nine goals and 26 points in 40 games for the junior team in Finland last season, and was shut out in seven games for Team Finland at the World Junior U-18 Championships. So he’s got some work to do developing his offensive game and getting both bigger and stronger, but the Bruins see size, strength and the work ethic to improve in Koppanen.

“He’s a big guy, and for a big guy he can really move around. He’s very good defensively and smart with his positioning. He plays hard,” said Bruins head scout Keith Gretzky. “The skill is the one area that needs to develop, and we think it’s going to do that. He was a guy that we targeted because he’s a big guy that can skate, and is good in his own end.”

One thing the Bruins focused on heading into the draft was acquiring some size at the center position, and they’ve clearly done that with 6-foot-2, 200-pound Trent Frederic and the 6-foot-5, 198-pound Koppanen.

It just remains to be seen what kind of offensive upside these gritty, tough competitors will have once they reach the pro ranks a few years from now, and that will go a long way to determining how good these picks end up being.

One thing is for sure: they must be projecting that Koppanen is better than Kemppainen, who was an absolute bust in the offensive zone. 

Lindgren brings toughness, leadership as Bruins second-round pick

boston-bruins-ryan-lindgren-nhl-draft-062516.jpg

Lindgren brings toughness, leadership as Bruins second-round pick

Despite receiving a mixed reaction to their two first-round picks, the consensus is the Bruins made another good pick in the second round with Ryan Lindgren.

The 6-foot, 203-pound defenseman from the US National Team Development Program had a combined 10 goals and 37 points in 87 games played for the program last season, and was excellent at both ends for Team USA during the World Junior Under-18 tournament played during the year.

Lindgren isn’t flashy, doesn’t come into the next stage of his hockey development as an elite puck-mover and he wasn’t somebody that popped with amazing workouts during the NHL scouting combine. Instead he’s simply been a solid D-man with good leadership qualities, who is good at everything while also showing an eager willingness to block shots and sacrifice his body for wins at a very young age where grit doesn’t always come naturally.

“Lindgren blocks shots. He’s not the most skilled guy like [Charlie] McAvoy or anything like that, but he brings an element that we really liked as an organization,” said Bruins head scout Keith Gretzky of the University of Minnesota-bound Lindgren. “We believe that he’s a leader, and you win with those kinds of guys.”

The Minnesota-born Lindgren also captained both the USNDTP team and the Under-18 World Junior squad for Team USA where hard work is clearly part of his overall skill set.

“I’m a hard-working defenseman,” said Lindgren last weekend in Buffalo while sporting black eyes from a ball hockey league he plays in with older brother, and Montreal Canadiens goalie, Charlie Lindgren. “I think I’m a leader on and off the ice. I think I bring a big compete level, and I bring it every day. I’m more of a defensive defenseman, but I think I’ve got some offensive ability as well. I’m going to be physical and bring it every game. I’m going to block shots and do whatever it is to help the team win. That’s what I expect to bring every game.”

Now the Bruins can sit back and watch Lindgren’s development with the Gophers where he’ll undoubtedly become a gritty, tough leader and top D-man like he’s been at every level of his hockey career prior to being the 49th overall selection.

Joe Haggerty can be followed on Twitter: @HacksWithHaggs